Trusting Our Friends
King Nebuchadnezzar and the fiery furnace
by Alison Thurlow
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider what it means to be a trustworthy friend.
Preparation and materials
- You will need a blindfold and a chocolate bar for the game in the ‘Assembly’, Step 2. Please check your school’s policy about food and be aware of allergies.
- Optional: you may wish to arrange the two volunteers for the game before the assembly so that they are more prepared.
- Explain that this assembly is going to explore the theme of friendship, especially in terms of what it means to trust our friends.
Ask the students, ‘What does the word “trust” mean?’
Pause to allow time for thought.
The word ‘trust’ can be defined as ‘firm belief in the reliability, truth or ability of someone or something’.
- Ask for two volunteers to come forward and explain that they will need to be willing to be blindfolded as part of a trust exercise.
Ask one of the volunteers to hold the chocolate bar while you blindfold the other volunteer.
Position the volunteers a significant distance apart and place some chairs as obstacles in the path between them. Explain that you want the person holding the chocolate to give directions to the blindfolded person so that they can reach the chocolate without hitting the obstacles.
(You may wish to suggest that if the blindfolded person hits one of the obstacles, he/she should be replaced by another volunteer until someone reaches the chocolate bar without hitting a chair. Please be aware of any potential health-and-safety rules when setting up the obstacles.)
- When the game has finished, ask the volunteers to return to their seats. Point out that the blindfolded person needed to trust the person who was giving the instructions. The instructor could have played a trick on them and made them crash into obstacles on purpose. Sometimes, it is difficult to know who we can trust . . . especially when chocolate is involved!
- Comment that the game was quite a good demonstration of what it means to trust someone, but it may not have been too difficult for the blindfolded student to trust their friend to lead them to the prize.
- Explain that there is a story in the Bible about three friends called Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They were in a much more serious situation where they had to trust both each other and God.
In around 600 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar was the ruler of Babylon. He had a huge, gold statue built and summoned people from far away to come and see it. When they arrived, an official stood up and announced, ‘When you hear the sound of the trumpet, the horn, the flute and all the other instruments, you must bow down and worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s statue. If anyone refuses to do this, they will be thrown into a fiery furnace!’
When the music started playing, everyone bowed down to the statue – everyone, that is, except for the three friends: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Some of the officials reported this to King Nebuchadnezzar, who was furious. He ordered the three men to be brought to him immediately. However, when the king ordered them to bow down, they said, ‘We will not worship your statue. Our God, the one true God, has told us that this would not be the right thing to do. Our God can save us from your fiery furnace, and even if he doesn’t, we still won’t worship your gold statue.’
King Nebuchadnezzar was so angry that he commanded some of his soldiers to make the furnace seven times hotter than usual and then to throw Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego into it. The soldiers followed the king’s instructions and threw in the three men. The fire was so hot that the soldiers were killed, yet Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were unharmed.
King Nebuchadnezzar went closer to see what was happening. To his amazement, he saw four, not three, people walking around in the furnace. The fourth person, an angel, told the three friends not to worry because God was with them and would save them.
The sight of the angel had a powerful effect on King Nebuchadnezzar. He called the three men out of the furnace, but this time, his voice was not angry, but full of wonder. ‘Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the one true God,’ he said. ‘These men trusted him and refused to obey my commands and he did not forget them. I now forbid anyone to say anything bad about their God and I am also going to promote these men.’
Time for reflection
Explain that in the story, the three men knew that they should not bow down and worship a statue because God had told them that this was wrong. They also knew that disobeying King Nebuchadnezzar would be a dangerous thing to do.
Ask the students, ‘Would the three friends have had the courage to stand up to the king if each had been on his own?’
Pause to allow time for thought or listen to a range of responses.
It may be that the men would have been strong enough by themselves; however, it is certain that together, they were stronger. Knowing that they could trust their friends and rely on each other for support must have made their decision a bit easier. Above all, though, they were probably only able to make that decision because they trusted God to look after them – and he did!
So, what could we learn from that story today?
One thing we might learn is that having friends we can trust, who will stand with us in difficult situations, is really important. It’s like the saying goes: ‘If you want a good friend, be a good friend.’
Read the phrase again and pause to allow time for thought.
Christians believe that they can trust in God. They believe that he will never let them down or leave them.
Who do we trust today?
Thank you that we can trust you, whatever situation we find ourselves in.
Please help us to be people whom others can trust.
Please give us people whom we can trust.
Please help us to be good friends to those around us.
Please also help us to forgive when needed.
‘Trust in the Lord’, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKDHwLm-UEg (7.00 minutes long)